Arendt Essay - Avilla 1 Ross Avilla Dr. Mitchell Philosophy...

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Avilla 1 Ross Avilla Dr. Mitchell Philosophy 1010: Evil May 19, 2003 How Evil is Banal for Arendt & How Her Views on Evil Compares With The Views of Nietzsche: Which is the Most Important
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Avilla 2 Evil is horrendous. Evil is fearsome. Evil is disturbing. Evil is banal. Evil is such a fantastic, almost romantic, concept, seemingly unimaginable in its most pure form, that one would never expect it to be, in actuality, commonplace, ordinary to our existence. Hannah Arendt proposed that evil is just this, that evil is banal. Her views can be hard to digest at times, because they are so troubling, but also because they are equally believable and, to a great extent, proven in the history and circumstances of the trial of Adolf Eichmann. That one man was head of the emigration of the Jewish people in Germany during World War II, and he ended up being responsible for millions of deaths by the end of the war. His is a story of a common man, a business man more or less, who, through common motives and common sense, perpetrated some of human history’s most gruesome atrocities. Eichmann’s particular case was rare, but many of the elements that made up his life were quite common. Though I won’t go into any detail concerning the life of Eichmann, I will, in this paper, tread upon some of the points made by Arendt in discussing his trial that display her theory on the banality of evil. Then I will compare some of her views with those of Nietzsche and discuss which ones are more important. According to Arendt, evil, defined in a sense as any intended act that is considered egregiously immoral, can be committed by almost any common person and even a whole population of like-minded common people. It is true that evil usually doesn’t rule a whole population, which is mainly because the law restricts and molds the people’s behavior. Though when law doesn’t have its rightful effect, in cases where people are given power to make orders that are above it or when the law of the land itself is immoral, evil can rule the general population. This usually starts with a few individuals, tyrants, the ruling elite who, through power, place themselves above the law.
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Avilla 3 They can then charge orders to those below them that are conflicting or even contrary to the law. However, according to Arendt, this might not necessarily cause a moral dilemma for those below them who are expected to conform to these corrupt demands. This is because they have been directed to commit immoral acts by those persons above them, whom it is their duty to serve, so, in rationalizing their circumstances, they could disavow any responsibility for their actions, saying that they must do so because they were ordered to do so. In this system of hierarchy, where orders are passed along tiers of power to be
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course PHIL 4401 taught by Professor Nagel during the Winter '05 term at CSU Stanislaus.

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Arendt Essay - Avilla 1 Ross Avilla Dr. Mitchell Philosophy...

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